Tasty Salisbury Steaks

Salisbury Steak

As the primary cook for a family of five, I have made peace with the fact that there are very few dishes that everyone will rave about. More often than not a few will love a dish while the others will eat without too much complaint. Once and awhile, I will come a crossed a rare gem of a recipe that everyone loves, the clouds part, and rainbows glitter in the sky. Usually, I run out and buy a lotto ticket after dinner because it truly is a lucky day. One of these rare beauties is Salisbury steak.

This Salisbury steak is a far cry from anything you would find on a school lunch room tray or in the frozen section of the grocery store. There is an added bonus because, more often than not, the ingredients are already in the house.

The base for this one is ground meat. For the 5 of us we will use 3lbs because, frankly, I like leftovers. We like to use ground turkey but really any will work for this one.  Premix your bread crumbs with 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning and mix together with your ground meat. Finally, add 2 eggs to the mixture with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.

Combine all the ingredients together.  The easiest way to thoroughly mix together all the ingredients is to roll your sleeves up and mix it with your hands. Patty out the meat as if you were making round hamburgers. Fry each one on both sides until browned.

Place in a baking dish deep enough that you can cover each of the patties with beef gravy. You can make your own gravy or use a pre-made gravy for convenience. Bake them in a covered dish at 400 for at least 30 to 45 mins.

Usually I will get them in the oven and get a pot of mashed potatoes going. By the time the potatoes are soft and ready to be mashed the Salisbury steaks are done as well. If mushrooms strike your fancy you can throw some sauteed mushrooms in with the gravy before you bake them.

The only complaint I hear after I make these for dinner is “I’m too full to do the dishes”.

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Mushroom Alfredo with Italian Chicken

Mushroom

Sunday is a great day for cooking here on the home front. It’s the day that I get to spend with the kids in the kitchen creating tasty things for a big dinner or sweet treats for the busy week ahead.

I wanted to do a twist on the traditional cream sauce to go with some leftover stuffed ravioli from a previous recipe post. Chicken sounded like a fantastic pairing with it, so I simmered chicken tenderloin strips with enough broth in the bottom of the pan to keep them from drying out while cooking. Sprinkled with some Italian herb seasoning, salt, pepper garlic power and onion powder flipped once to brown both sides and wrapped them up to keep them warm while building the sauce.

I started by sauteing two 16oz cans of baby Bella mushrooms and pulled them just as I had rendered the moisture from them without letting it cook at this time. With the butter and mushroom liquid still fresh I whipped together the roux. If you have questions about the roux please look to my previous article about mac and cheese, the gooey details can be found there.

Once the roux had been prepared, I added equal parts of milk and cream(three and three for us but if you are feeding less people you can decrease that).

While the base of the sauce was being brought back up to temperature, in a mini chopper I combines two tablespoons of minced garlic that was roasted previously with a tablespoon of olive oil and ¼ cup of cream and blended until smooth and then added it to the sauce. Finally, add butter with two cups of mixed Italian shredded cheese. Stir this until the cheese is entirely melted and incorporated.

Serve sauce, chicken, and mushrooms with the ravioli for a fantastic dinner!

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Adventures in Quinoa – Mac’n’Cheese is a Good Start

Quinoa

Change is good for the soul as they say. Good is certainly a matter of perspective, especially when we are talking about medical issues that result in a major change in the food we eat. Both my husband and my youngest were advised to remove artificial dyes, additives, preservatives and chemicals from the food they eat. In short, it means if you can’t pronounce it, then they shouldn’t eat it.

Add to this that the youngest also will not eat meat unless it is ground and hidden in something and even then he may pick some out(That is the sensory processing disorder, it is a texture thing.) and the older kids are pretty sure that cooking veggies is a crime against humanity in which a war tribunal should be constructed to execute a swift and severe punishment. Well that leaves us with organic PB & J’s for the rest of forever because I am not about to make three different dinners for five people.

Before I completely threw in the towel and bought a year’s worth of mason jars for making jam, I went to the internet.

We live in a golden age of information and misinformation where food is concerned. I could spend the rest of an eternity fact checking and cross referencing the articles available on this kind of thing. One alternative that kept popping up was quinoa.

Quinoa is a super versatile grain that is a cross between pasta and rice with a slight nutty flavor. Quinoa is also a big dietary component of those who are gluten free. Many recipes I found consist of other gluten free, dairy free, vegan friendly ingredients. Thankfully the restrictions I am working with aren’t quite as limiting. There was some tweaking involved when we started this new adventure.

New textures and dishes have a tendency to fly like a lead balloon around here if I am not careful, but I felt like it was worth a chance. Quinoa has many healthy characteristics and leads itself to a great side dish.

I started out with quinoa mac and cheese. Cheese makes everything better doesn’t it? Start out by cooking the quinoa according to the package directions. Some need to be rinsed before cooking, much like wild rice. Once it is cooked, combine the cooked quinoa, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 2 large eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 ½ cups of cheddar cheese(More if you would like to sprinkle some on top), and a dash of salt and pepper. Combine until all the ingredients are incorporated and bake in a 9×13 pan at 350 for 30/35 minutes.

Quinoa Mac and Cheese. HOLY CHEESUS!!! Healthy and packed with protein (made with Almond Milk)...what if I added ground flaxseed into the panko crumbs for added fiber with the broccoli? There would be so much nutritional value that I wouldn't be able to feel guilty about the cheese :)

Serve immediately and be sure not to overcook this dish as the quinoa continues to soak up the extra moisture and you will lose all that creamy goodness. If you like, you can add steamed veggies before baking or top with panko bread crumbs and/or crumbled bacon for some extra crunch. Even our youngest was willing to try a few bites so all in all it was a win-win. Stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures in Quinoa.

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Apple Kolaches

Apple Kolaches

My mother was a third generation American but a full blooded Czech. Growing up with subtle reminders of your own ethnic subset is common and even endearing as you get older. As a child, it was not uncommon to have Jaternice(Pronounced “ethernitze”) or Klobása sausage and sauerkraut or knedlíky (potato dumplings).

Kolaches are a traditional Bohemian pastry normally made with yeast with a filling made from prune, apricot, or cheese. For simplicity, this recipe is sans yeast and I even cheated by using pre-prepared pie filling.(GASP!) Think of it as a faster way to enjoy the end result.

The Dough

Ingredients
  • 1c Butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 6oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4c Sugar
  • 2c Flour
Directions
  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together thoroughly. 5 minutes on a mixer is not out of the question.
  2. Add the sugar and mix well.
  3. Add the flour and mix well. Take note: the dough should be stiff you if your mixer sucks, do it by hand.
  4. She the dough into a ball and then set, bowl and all in the refrigerator to shill for 1 hr. This will help solidify it for rolling.

The Pastry

  1. Well flour a cotton dish towel or cutting board and cut the dough ball in half.
  2. Take that half of a dough ball and roll it out on the surface to 1/8 inch thickness.
  3. Cut the rolled dough into squares somewhere between 2×2 and 4×4 inches. The larger, the more filling you can fit in each. Some people like them petite and some people like them bigger.
  4. Dab a 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp of filling in the center of your squares.
  5. Gently gather all 4 corners of the square together at the top and pinch them together. Then push the pinched part down to flare out the 4 slits between the gathered sides.(You’ll be able to see the filling then)
  6. Put on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400° for 15 to 17 minutes.

Options:

  • Gather only 2 sides together overlapping leaving the kolache longer and more open.(Your filling might run more so don’t overfill)
  • Once cooled you can drizzle a simple vanilla icing over the top for an extra sweet treat.

 

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Homemade Ravioli and Meatballs in a Red Sauce

ravioli

Despite what the calendar might say, there aren’t many signs of spring to be seen just yet. I’m not complaining though. The frigid temperatures have given me a valid reason to stay inside and try some of the many recipes that, for one reason or another, are not warm weather fare.

The first recipe I have always wanted to try was ravioli with red sauce and meatballs.(Don’t worry. Those of you who are screaming for a cream sauce…it is in the works.) We will break this up into three parts and walk you through the steps. While it does take a bit of elbow grease, the end result is well worth it.

PART 1: The Sauce

Red sauce goes by many different names. Marinara, spaghetti sauce, or “Sunday gravy” are just to name a few. Whatever you like to call it says as much about where you are from as what you would put into the sauce.

Mince up one large onion and at least two cloves of garlic. Melt one or two Tbsp butter and one Tbsp olive oil in the bottom of your stock pot then add the onions and garlic. In five to ten minutes the onions will become translucent. That’s when you know it is time to add the tomatoes and herbs. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and marjoram are all good options for seasoning. Pick your favorites. How many cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes you use is entirely dependent on how many people you are trying to feed. Our family of five uses 6 cans combined. On low heat you can let this simmer all day if you like. The longer it simmers the more water that will cook off and more of the flavor will come through. If you are in a hurry you can thicken the sauce with tomato paste as well. Stay close to your stove though, stirring occasionally.

PART 2: The Meatballs

Making your own meatballs is fairly simple. If you have ground meat and an ice cream scoop you are ready to get down to it. 2 ½ lbs of meat will feed the whole family and provide plenty of leftovers to freeze to use later for quick meals on weekday nights. Ground turkey is what is used around here but you can use whatever tickles your fancy. Combine the thawed meat with bread crumbs, minced onion, minced garlic, eggs, salt, pepper and some the herbs that were mentioned above.The amount of bread crumbs will change based on the meat used, the size of the eggs as well as the weather. No, I’m not joking, humidity changes things.

Use a stand mixer or kitchen gadget if you like but nothing seems to work quite as well as my own two hands to get this completely worked together.  You are looking for a consistency of meaty play dough.

Once mixed, use an ice cream scoop to get uniform sized meatballs, that way they will all be done at the same time. Bake at 350 on a cookies sheet with a rack to allow the grease to drip off. Use a meat thermometer to check for proper temperature.

PART 3: The Pasta

Use a food processor with a dough blade or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. You will need some arm strength left for the rolling pin.

First, start with 1½ cups of flour and 2 eggs. Start on the lowest setting unless you would like to recreate a mushroom cloud of flour dust in your kitchen. Once it is looking incorporated then add just enough water to make the dough workable. Start with one tablespoon and add one more at a time. You don’t want it too sticky. Once you have dough that has pulled away from the sides of bowl and is forming a natural ball then cover with plastic wrap, tin foil, or a bowl with a snap seal lid. Let it rest for at least thirty minutes.

When you are ready to start rolling the dough split it into two pieces. It makes the rolling easier.(If you are lucky enough to have a pasta roller this is a snap.) Roll out your dough till it is less than an eighth on an inch thick. Cut it into 2×2 squares, a pizza cutter or pastry wheel will make quick work of this.

When I made these I used fresh mozzarella but you can use spinach feta, squash anything you like. With a small teaspoon place the filling on one half of the 2×2 square, brush with an egg wash along the edges and crimp the edges with a fork. Once the ravioli is assembled they can be frozen and used at a later time.

Cook the ravioli in small batches to prevent them sticking to the bottom of your pot or each other. Boil them for 3-5 minutes and ladle them out and repeat. Serve with the red sauce and meatballs.

Enjoy!

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History in a Can

Wilson1

Just on the other side of the farm field next to our property is an old abandoned farmstead. All but the silo are either completely leveled through time or very near that state. All things are reclaimed by nature over time.

In the early spring and late fall, when the field is not planted, that farmstead becomes an archaeological dig site for my children and I. With a background in history, it’s exciting to be able to teach the kids to look beyond what they see to what they can ascertain about how people lived by what people left behind.

This last fall we found some artifacts in a old refuse pile. An old milk can, some bottles, broken tools, and a rusty can were all lugged home and left on the front step. They sat there through the lion share of the winter. What more damage can be done to it anyway? The good thing about history is the timeline allows you to put it down and re-investigate it when you can afford the time. Last week I took it upon myself to clean up the rusty can.

Upon first inspection I could make out some lettering but not enough to form words. After a good cleaning and two days soaking in a 50/50 bath of CLR and water, we determined that it was a can of Wilson’s Chopped Beef. Here’s where the historian takes over.

Wilson Chopped Beef  Wilson and Company was a meatpacking company from Chicago founded by Thomas E Wilson. Wilson started at a railroad car checker at the Chicago stock yards. By 1913 the industrious Wilson had worked his way up to president of the Morris & Company. In 1916 he left Morris to take over a struggling New York meat packing company called Sulzberger & Sons. The name was changed to Wilson & Co later that year and the offices were moved back to Chicago, where Wilson got his start.

In it’s time Wilson & Co had achieved great success, becoming one of the 50 largest industrial companies in the US. It had a profound influence on the marketing and manufacturing of processed meats that are still on the market today. An interesting note is that Wilson & Co acquired the Ashland Manufacturing Company which dealt in sporting goods. They changed the name of that division to Wilson Sporting Goods. Yes, THAT Wilson Sporting Goods. It seems an easy transition for a meatpacking company to also make use of the hides for ball that would later be the best friend of a shipwrecked Tom Hanks character.

Wilson died in 1958. In the 60’s Wilson and Co was bought and that ends the short history of Wilson and Co, the manufacturer of the meat that was consumed by the farmer. Being from Minnesota, it seems odd to find a surviving Wilson’s can when Hormel is such a big influence with it’s world renown SPAM. Still, competition in the canned meat business post WWII was fierce and varied with many producers duking it out on a national scale for dominance. There was a time when Wilson & Co were one of the big three Chicago meatpacking companies.

What is the purpose of this little history lesson? Until now, I did not even know about Wilson’s meats or what significance it played in the food industry, how it had been a successful company for half a century, and how it was tied to Wilson Sporting Goods.  All this because we picked up a rusty can in a pile of someone’s garbage in the middle of the woods. Fascinating!

Wilson2

 

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